Streamline Your Travel Packing Routine in 3 Easy Steps

light backpacking for traveling

I am a reformed overpacker. Before I moved to Europe and started traveling regularly, I saw traveling as an opportunity to see just how much junk I could stuff into a full-size suitcase. Back then, airlines weren’t charging ridiculous baggage fees, so I knew I could get away with checking two bags if I felt like I needed to. Even after schlepping those two gigantic pieces of luggage through the check-in counter, I would still have a large carry-on AND my purse to deal with. I felt that because I could pack that much stuff I should pack that much stuff. Why not?

Because it’s ridiculous. That’s why not.

Now that I’ve been traveling regularly, I’ve learned to streamline my travel packing routine significantly. I don’t sacrifice my style or my need to feel good in what I’m wearing to cut down on the amount of clothing in my luggage. Instead, I’ve learned a few tricks for packing less by changing up my outfits just enough to make each day’s outfit feel special. I plan what I’m going to take on each trip based on a few basic packing tips that I’ve learned over these past several months.

My Basic Travel Packing Tips

1. Stick to one basic wardrobe formula.

I am a casual-wear junkie when I’m traveling, so I tend to stick to the top-jeans-boots combo. It’s like the uniform I wear when I’m not wearing my uniform to work (not to mention the fact that it’s so much more flattering). This works well because it’s so much easier to pack light if you stick to a basic wardrobe formula.

2. Stick to one basic color pallette.

If you’re stumped on what color to build off of, black is always a good bet. I usually make a decision on my shoes before packing anything else. If I know I’m going to be walking everywhere, I’m most likely going to wear a pair of broken-in riding boots. I have two options then – black or brown. Once I’ve decided which boots or shoes I’m wearing, I’ll start building a simple color pallette that works with them. For example, when I’m going to wear my black boots on a trip, I’ll choose blue, pink, and/or purple shirts and sweaters. When I choose the brown boots, I usually go with orange, tan, and green.

Travel Outfits Collage

I can wear one of these outfits on the plane/train/car/dunebuggy and pack the rest in a tote with a handful of underoos, three pairs of socks, something to sleep in, and some toiletries and be set for a long weekend. If I’m going to be jaunting around for up to a week, I increase the amount of undergarments and socks, throw in one more pair of jeans, and add a few more accessories. I don’t need anymore than this. It’s fabulous!

3. Play musical accessories

With the four outfits above, I can also stretch them into a full week’s worth of outfits by switching up the accessories instead of packing extras. The scarves can each be paired with at least one other top to create a new look. Throw in a beanie or fedora on a few days, and you’ve jazzed it up even more.

Packing Doesn’t Have to Suck

I used to stress myself out over what I was going to wear for each day of my trip. It doesn’t have to be that traumatic! Now that I’ve been using this system for packing for a few months, I’ve been so much less frazzled, both before and during the trip. Having a smaller suitcase means I’m saving money on baggage fees and that I can hike that badboy up and run with it if I have a fast connection. It also means I’m not looking for a place to stash a huge piece of luggage in these tiny European hotel rooms. Best of all, it means I don’t have to dig through mountains of clothes to find that last piece that I need to put my outfit for the day together.

Packing light makes me happy. I’m forever reformed now that I’ve seen the light.

How about you? Are you a reformed overpacker? How do you streamline your packing routine? Tell me in the comments!

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